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Sep 28, 2010 3:15 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Judgment favorable but does not restore Stony Brook Southampton

Sep 28, 2010 3:15 PM

In a final ruling on Friday, State Supreme Court Justice Paul J. Baisley Jr. reaffirmed his initial finding that Stony Brook University violated state education law when it made deep spending cuts at its Southampton campus—but he refused to order that the cuts be reversed.

A group of six former Stony Brook Southampton students and a nonprofit that advocates for the campus had filed a lawsuit against Stony Brook University in May and were seeking to have the slashed funding restored in time for a reopening of the campus for the spring 2011 semester.

It is unclear what the decision actually will mean for the Shinnecock Hills school, which was scaled back in August after Stony Brook University closed the residential dorms and moved the sustainability programs to its main campus for what the university said were financial reasons. Even though the judge did not order the cuts reversed, the attorney for the students who filed the lawsuit called the judgment a victory and said, in his interpretation, the university will have to move courses back to Stony Brook Southampton and reopen the dorms there.

“What the judge has ruled is that the decision to close the campus was reached unlawfully,” said the attorney, Russell Penzer of the firm Lazer, Aptheker, Rosella & Yedid. “Obviously, everything that’s done that stemmed from that decision has to be undone.”

The university released only a brief statement, through spokeswoman Lauren Sheprow, following the decision on Friday: “We have received the court’s judgment and will respond accordingly at the appropriate time and in the appropriate manner.”

In his initial August 30 ruling, Justice Baisley sided with the students and wrote that the cuts to Stony Brook Southampton were illegal because Stony Brook University’s 10-member University Council, which is made up mostly of appointees chosen by the governor, did not discuss the proposed cuts before they took effect. The university has claimed that it put itself in compliance with state law when it discussed the changes with the University Council in May, a month after officials announced the cuts.

Mr. Penzer said there is still one pending motion that Justice Baisley must rule on in the case—a motion by Stony Brook University to amend the judgment to state that the university actually complied with state law in May when it talked to the University Council. The university had asked the judge to hold off on issuing his judgment until he ruled on that motion, but he refused.

“I’m very confident that motion will fail,” Mr. Penzer said. Regardless, Stony Brook could also appeal, he added.

The bulk of the cuts to the Stony Brook Southampton campus has already gone into effect. Activity on campus has been reduced to a marine sciences research facility and a graduate writing program, and most of the former Southampton students are now registered at the main campus, where they began their fall semester classes in late August.

University officials have stated they were forced to drastically cut spending at Stony Brook Southampton due to huge losses in state funding since the economic downturn began in 2008. The university has convened an advisory council that is charged with helping come up with a new purpose for the 82-acre site in Shinnecock Hills.

In a press release issued on Friday, State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. of Sag Harbor, who represents the South Fork and has fought to preserve Stony Brook Southampton as a residential campus, celebrated the judgment, even though it did not include the proposed order to reverse the cuts.

“This is another victory for the Southampton students,” Mr. Thiele wrote. “Stony Brook sought to stay the court judgment because they claimed that they had already complied with the state education law. The judge refused the stay. The order annulling the Stony Brook University decision is now the law.”

In the wake of the judgment, the legislator also called for discussions on how to come to a “resolution that re-opens the Southampton campus as a four-year residential college with all deliberate speed” in lieu of a continued court battle.

Katie Osiecki, one of the six students who filed suit against Stony Brook University President Samuel L. Stanley Jr., M.D. and the university in May, said on Monday that she was unsure of what the judgment would mean, but she hoped it would eventually lead to the return of sustainability-themed classes and dorms at Stony Brook Southampton.

“It still leaves that little bit of hope open to reopen the school, which I think is what we’re all banking on right now,” she said.

Ms. Osiecki, 18, of Sag Harbor, said she is calling on former Southampton students and their supporters to write letters to the members of the University Council, and to attend its next meeting on October 4. In her own letter to council members, Ms. Osiecki wrote that Stony Brook university’s main campus, where she is now taking classes, is not what she “signed up for.”

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Judge Baisley has thrown the ball back into the hands of the Stony Brook administration. It will be VERY interesting to see if an intelligent and mature response is forthcoming.

The Southampton campus is a diamond in the rough. If Stony Brook can't wake up, then perhaps it DESERVES to have a fight on its hands, and to lose this gem?
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Sep 17, 10 5:37 PM
2 members liked this comment
Agreed. It would be nice to have a short trip for continuing adult education, instead of having to go to Suffolk...
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Sep 17, 10 6:11 PM
2 members liked this comment
Stony Brook officials keep telling the press “The campus is not closed – the campus is still open”. But in a recent university newspaper, the Southampton staff assistant admits that, for the few grad students commuting to the campus, “There’s no computer access, there’s no library, there’s nothing for them to eat,” … “We had to put some chairs out so they could have somewhere to sit between classes”. What kind of an "open campus" is that? How do you do grad studies without computers or a library? ...more
By ts (71), southampton on Sep 21, 10 5:04 AM
If it was ruled illegal & ordered that it could not proceed, it only makes sense that whatever has proceeded into effect thus far must be undone.
By ts (71), southampton on Sep 18, 10 1:23 AM
The link to the August 30th decision is below:

http://decisions.courts.state.ny.us/fcas/fcas_docs/2010sep/51001924420101sciv.pdf

It is a public record posted on the court systems website.


By Publius (358), Westhampton Beach on Sep 18, 10 7:32 AM
1 member liked this comment
The cuts to the Southampton campus will be permanent and legal once the trustees meet. The Southampton campus is too expensive to run at SUNY rates. The land will be sold to private developers where the state can reap the most financial benefit.
By Walt (292), Southampton on Sep 18, 10 3:41 PM
It may very well be "too expensive to run" but that does not make it any less expensive to close. Where are the numbers?

The amortization of the purchase price will continue. How many millions were spent on renovations of dorms and other facilities? Those costs will also continue even if those buildings are again locked up and allowed to deteriorate. Exactly how much is Stonybrook "saving" by allowing it all to go fallow?

Let's see the numbers and allow some well considered ...more
By VOS (1241), WHB on Sep 19, 10 12:05 AM
1 member liked this comment
The ruling only sated that it was illegal to make the cuts because the trustees did not vote on it, a technicality. You can be sure that oversight will be rectified and the cuts made legal.
By Walt (292), Southampton on Sep 18, 10 3:43 PM
Theres more than just a technicality involved. If they just rubber-stamp an after-the-fact approval on something that has already been illegally implemented, the council will be seen as a total sham. They are required to review and consider other alternatives. Theyre going to have to do that now. "Any effort by Stony Brook to go to the University Council to attempt a 'do-over' to close the campus will be met with the most stringent opposition".
By ts (71), southampton on Sep 21, 10 4:14 AM
If this campus is sold to anyone, let alone developers, it will be a sad day on the East End IMO.

As Woodie Guthrie wrote +/-, "This Land Is Our Land," and more probably it is Shinnecock land.

If the Stony Brook Trustees want to squander this diamond in the rough, then they have a serious vision problem IMO.

So be it!
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Sep 18, 10 3:59 PM
1 member liked this comment
An appointed public official (Dr. Samuel Stanley- President of Stony Brook University) made a major decision without consulting the University Council. This is illegal and, in this particular instance, he got caught. I wonder how many other decisions were made autonomously by Dr. Stanley that have gone by unnoticed. The Council exists to PREVENT one individual from holding too much power.
Members of the Stony Brook University Council have admitted that they don't even know what their responsibilities ...more
By Cdwyer213 (68), Quogue on Sep 19, 10 10:46 AM
1 member liked this comment
The council has a specific role with important duties but, according to comments made by some of them, they “don’t have the time” to inform themselves of the issues or even their responsibilites as a council. That is outrageous and an admission that should not be left to slide by. How can they perform their duties when they haven’t bothered to find out what they are? (see “Stony Brook Southampton Shuttered Without Council Oversight”
http://www.sbpress.com/2010/09/stony-brook-southampton-shuttered-without-council-oversight/)

The ...more
By ts (71), southampton on Sep 21, 10 4:47 AM
Southampton Update from Assemblyman Thiele...

Dear Friend,
Thank you for your recent email with regard to Judge Baisley signing the court order declaring Stony Brook’s action to close the Southampton campus to be illegal. This is certainly a victory for the students. It is gratifying to have our position upheld by the State Supreme Court.

Please also note that the Judge did not set any date for the re-opening of the college. While we requested the Judge to do so, it was not ...more
By ts (71), southampton on Sep 21, 10 4:10 AM
For insider information & new revelations that may shock some - check out these articles from the Stony Brook Press:

"Stony Brook Southampton Shuttered Without Council Oversight"
http://www.sbpress.com/2010/09/stony-brook-southampton-shuttered-without-council-oversight/

"With No Check, There is No Balance"
http://www.sbpress.com/2010/09/with-no-check-there-is-no-balance/

"The Southampton Exodus"
http://www.sbpress.com/2010/09/the-southampton-exodus/

By ts (71), southampton on Sep 21, 10 4:22 AM
thiele is impotent. on this issue.
By justduckey (58), artist colony on Oct 4, 10 5:09 PM
New article -- no link above, nor link there to this article:

http://www.27east.com/story_detail.cfm?id=304277&town=Southampton&n=University%20Council%20supports%20cuts%20to%20Stony%20Brook%20Southampton
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Oct 4, 10 6:59 PM